November 22nd, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Report: Woman detained after falcons found in luggage

The eight gyrfalcons were swaddled in pillow cases and other cloth when customs officials discovered them at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Customs officials seized eight rare falcons at the Moscow airport after a woman tried to smuggle the wrapped, boxed birds out of the country, the International Fund for Animal Welfare reported.

The gyrfalcons were found in two cartons being loaded into the hold of a plane bound for Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, the group said. The woman who checked the cartons as her luggage was detained and released pending a court appearance.

“At least 100 wild gyrfalcons are smuggled out of Russia each year, primarily driven by demand from the growing popularity of falconry in the Middle East,” said IFAW’s Russia director, Masha Vorontsova, in a statement.

The fast and powerful predator is the world's largest falcon. It breeds in arctic and subarctic regions and preys primarily on large birds, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.

They can command as much as $50,000 on the black market. Officials believe the birds seized at Sheremetyevo International Airport were captured in Russia’s Far East and transported through two security checkpoints and a customs inspection before being detected.

The birds are expected to survive and will reside at IFAW’s raptor rehabilitation center until they are ready to be released into the wild, likely sometime next month.

The gyrfalcon is listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red Book of endangered species and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ Appendix I. The latter designation, says IFAW, makes any commercial trade involving the birds illegal.

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Filed under: Crime • Environment • Russia
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Guest


    November 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane


      November 23, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • desmond

      This smuggler deserves the death penalty for treating these magnificent birds that way. Seriously.

      November 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mogwi

    Ha! They were going to fly falcons. Get it? Falcons can fly themselves!

    November 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CaptainObvious

    I thought it was the Atlanta Falcons. My mistake.

    November 22, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Diane

    I think they should feed that lady to the falcons for dinner.

    November 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lubiana

      Me too

      November 23, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Twistsboy

    Whats this world coming to? I mean birds come on thats low! Leave nature alone people!

    November 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • saluyot3

      At 50K each x 8 = 400K that's enough drive for some people.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |

    a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush... and i guess a bird in the suitcase is worth 50k..

    November 22, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayatl71


      November 23, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • busymom

      50K a piece!

      November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • hitsville


      November 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • dragon of night

      I geuss so

      November 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bear lover

      Wow that is so witty! You must be a professional comedian!

      November 23, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • db

      It depends on who's bush you have your hands in I would say.

      November 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • toledoboy2008

      Love this video!

      November 25, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Reynardine Greencastle

    The gyrfalcon is not only the greatest of the true falcons and an endangered raptor, it has long enjoyed a high place in ancient Russian tradition, both as recorded from as long ago as tenth-century Kiev and as handed down in folklore, and the greatest of heroes were compared to it. This smuggler's fate is not likely to be gentle.

    November 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      The Gyr is a spectacular bird. However, a licensed falconer can obtain one in the U.S. from a breeder for about $6K. They're not a pet but a keenly intelligent hunting partner and they need cold temperatures to thrive. How disgusting to see them stuffed in pillowcases waiting to suffocate. We have a wildlife rehabilitation facility in So.Cal and a well-meaning Good Sam "rescued" an infant American Kestrel (a small falcon), rolled it in a towel and brought it to us – dead by then of suffocation. Sadly, common sense is an uncommon attribute.

      November 23, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      The smuggler's fate is likely to be a slap on the wrist. Russia doesn't really care much about wildlife protection.

      November 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Diane


    November 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Talon

      if it's a falcon D ~ you don't have much to look forward to...

      November 23, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      I like a man who is challenged

      November 23, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. What in the world

    Okay, I had a much needed laugh Thanks Diane!

    November 22, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M in Oz

    Endangered species are priceless and by taking them to another country the gene pool for those left behind becomes smaller. This woman should be stuffed in a pillowcase with her arms and legs tied in to stop her moving and then flown across the world in a suitcsae. Some people have no idea.

    November 22, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • A. Non

      I totally agree!

      November 25, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. M in Oz

    I hope they release them back where they came from.

    November 22, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PARROT


    November 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • What th?

      The Gyrs would love a parrot to pieces. Are you the offering?

      November 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BonQuiQui

    This lady needs a swift kick in the pooter. What is wrong with people? Leave animals alone. What the hell does someone need a falcon for anyway?

    November 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The Dude


    November 23, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. DC Girl

    That is so wrong. She should have been detained and jailed until her court hearing.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
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